Last year, an episode of MonsterQuest (the History Channel's popular program about mythical and mysterious creatures) brought to light information supporting the conclusion that jaguars had once again returned to southern Arizona, where they were once plentiful. Then, several weeks ago, on February 18, 2009, one of those rare cats was captured. The intent was to collar the animal to track its movements better. However, after the animal fell ill, state game officers decided to put the animal down.
Macho B, as the sole male found thus far was named, had been first caught on trail cameras as far back as 1996 as a juvenile. By the time he was picked up and moved to a zoo for treatment, he was roughly 15 years old. His advanced age combined with kidney problems led to the collapse.
Cats like Macho B once roamed from South America all the way north to the southern reaches of the United States. However, by the turn of the 20th century, Manifest Destiny had managed to eradicate most all of the jaguars north of Mexico. Protected since 1973 (despite the lack of specimens), Macho B's presence augers well for the general health of the species. It could indicate that jaguar numbers are returning to a healthier state. Let us hope that we humans learn from our past mistakes and try to better coexist with these beautiful cats.